This Hainanese chicken rice is a simple dish with incredible flavors! The tender poached chicken is served along with an addictive ginger scallion sauce and garlicky rice. This chicken rice is so tasty and makes for good leftovers too!
What is Hainan Chicken Rice
Hainanese Chicken Rice is a popular Asian street food containing chicken, seasoned rice, and sauces. It is adapted from a dish called Wenchang chicken rice that originated in the city of Wenchang, on the island of Hainan, China's southernmost province.
Hainan chicken rice is also popular throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. In Indonesia and Malaysia, Hainan chicken is known as Nasi Hainan or Nasi Ayam. It is known as Khao Man Gai in Thailand, and cơm gà Hải Nam in Vietnam. It is considered one of the national dishes of Singapore.
How Hainan Chicken is Made
Hainan chicken rice usually involves poaching the whole chicken in salt and aromatic vegetables, then using the stock to cook the rice.
Since the chicken is lightly seasoned, the most important part of the dish is actually not the chicken, but rather the sauce and rice. The sauce and rice both play important roles that can make or break the dish.
Now, let's talk about the sauce...
The Best Sauce for Hainanese Chicken Rice
Traditionally and common in China, the poached chicken is served with a ginger scallion sauce.
Soy or chili-based sauces are also styles found elsewhere in Asia such as in Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia. Each of those differs too so the word "traditional" may mean different things to different people. Some may also argue that this is a Malaysian or Singaporean dish.
I've eaten many different types of Hainan Chicken and it's not uncommon to find completely different approaches to the sauce, many are quite good!
While traveling I always find unique dipping sauces and actually make it a point to seek them out.
The Ingredients for the Hainan Chicken Recipe
To make this recipe, you'll need a whole chicken, scallions, and ginger for poached chicken and ginger scallion sauce. In addition, you'll also need fresh garlic, Thai Jasmine rice, and sesame oil to make the rice.
Whole chicken. Use a medium-large size whole chicken, about 4 pounds.
Scallions. You'll be using the scallions to flavor the chicken, and to make the ginger scallion sauce.
Ginger. The ginger will be used in a number of ways, to flavor the poached chicken, dipping sauce, and rice.
Garlic. Fresh garlic will also be used to flavor the rice.
Sesame oil. This is used to add fragrance and flavor to the chicken, dipping sauce, and rice
How to Make the Hainanese Chicken Rice
Don't let the lengthy cooking instructions scare you from trying this recipe! It's written in a way that's organized step-by-step but is actually very easy to make. On top of that, the recipe has less than 10 ingredients, so should definitely be on your list of easy and convenient recipes to make on a recurring basis.
This Hainan Chicken Rice recipe is pretty easy to follow. The cooking process is divided into 3 steps:
1. Poach the Chicken
- Remove any excess loose skin from the chicken cavity and near the tail (you'll need at least ¼ cup of it) then chop it into small pieces. Set it aside to make the garlic rice later.
- Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the chicken (if included)
- Stuff the cavity of the chicken with ginger slices and scallions.
- Place the whole chicken in a large stockpot. Cover the chicken with water and add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then quickly reduce the heat to gently simmer the chicken for 45 minutes or until fully cooked.
- Skim off the scum from the surface of the broth.
- Remove the whole chicken from the stockpot and immediately transfer it to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. This is an important step to ensure the meat is tender and the skin is crisp.
- Once it has cooled, remove the chicken from the ice bath and pat it dry with paper towels. Drizzle some sesame oil all over the chicken.
2. Make the Ginger Scallion Sauce
While you're waiting for the chicken to fully cook, you can start making the ginger scallion sauce.
- Finely mince the ginger and scallions, then transfer to a bowl and season with salt.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan until hot and it begins to smoke.
- Pour the hot oil onto the bowl and gently stir the mixture to combine. Set it aside.
3. Cook the Garlic Rice
When done making the ginger scallion sauce, you can start preparing the garlic rice. However, you'll need to wait until the chicken is fully cooked so you can use the broth to cook the rice.
- Finely mince the garlic and ginger.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook the chopped chicken skin and sesame oil for 4-5 minutes or until the skin is crispy and the fat is rendered.
- Add garlic and ginger, and cook for about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Add the rice and toast it for about 4 minutes. Do not burn!
- Transfer the rice mixture to a rice cooker or instant pot, and add the chicken stock from step #1. Cook the rice accordingly.
4. Make the Soup
This is an optional step if you want to serve the chicken rice with soup on the side.
- Bring the remaining stock to a boil until it is reduced in half.
- Adjust the seasoning with salt, and black or white pepper if needed.
- Serve with chopped scallions.
Hainan Chicken Rice Cooking Tips:
- To maximize your time, start making the garlic scallion sauce and preparing ingredients for the garlic rice while waiting for the chicken to fully cook so everything will be ready at the same time
- If you are limiting your salt intake, add salt to the rice at a later step. Once the rice is fully cooked, give it a taste and add salt according to your liking.
- Do not overcook the chicken. It's very important to gently simmer the chicken slowly and at low heat so the chicken gets plenty of moistness from its poaching liquid.
- Do not skip toasting the rice. This step is necessary to bring out more flavor and a nutty texture to the garlic rice.
- To store the leftovers, transfer the chicken, sauce, rice, and soup into separate airtight containers. Properly stored, the leftovers will last 3-4 days in the fridge.
- To reheat the leftovers, place the chicken, rice, and sauce on a microwave-safe plate. Cover the plate with wet paper towels to prevent the rice and chicken from drying.
Check Out More Tasty Asian Recipes
- Pork Tenderloin Stir Fry
- Vietnamese Caramelized Pork
- Water Spinach Stir Fry
- Stir-Fried Green Beans with Shrimp
- Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef)
- Char Kway Teow
- Laksa Soup
- Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
Hainanese Chicken Rice Recipe
- an 8 quart stock pot
- 1 whole chicken, (about 4 pounds, neck and giblets removed)
- 6 pieces ginger slices
- 5 bunches scallions
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 gallon water
Ginger Scallion Sauce
- 2½ oz finely chopped scallions
- 1¾ oz finely chopped ginger
- 6 tablespoons neutral and high-smoking point oil, (peanut, vegetable, canola, or sunflower oil)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ⅛ teaspoon rice wine vinegar, (optional)
- ¼ cup chicken fat and skin, (chop into small pieces)
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 cups long-grain rice , (rinse and drain well)
- 2 cups reserved chicken poaching water
- 1¼ tablespoons minced ginger
- 1¼ tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, (use more or less according to your liking)
- fresh cucumber, (sliced)
Poaching the Chicken
- Remove any excess loose skin from the chicken cavity and near the tail (at least ¼ cup of it), pat it dry with paper towels then chop into small pieces. Set aside to make the rice later.
- Stuff the cavity of the chicken with ginger slices and scallions. Place the whole chicken (breast side up) in a large stockpot. Add the salt and water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. Skim off the scum from the surface of the broth.
- Once the chicken is cooked, transfer it to an ice bath. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter, pat it dry with paper towels and rub with sesame oil. Set aside.
Ginger Scallion Sauce
- In a heatproof bowl, combine minced scallions, ginger, sesame oil, and salt.
- Put the oil in a saucepan and heat up over high heat until really hot and begins to smoke. Pour the oil into the bowl then stir to combine.
- Taste the sauce, and add the optional rice wine vinegar, more sesame oil, or salt if needed.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook the chopped chicken skin/fat with sesame oil for 4-5 minutes or until the skin is crispy and the fat is rendered.
- Add the garlic and ginger. Cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and toast it for about 3-4 minutes until it becomes a golden brown color. Do not burn!
- Transfer the rice mixture to a rice cooker or instant pot, and add 2 cups of reserved poaching broth and salt. Cook accordingly.
- Bring the remaining poaching broth to a boil until it is reduced in half. Adjust the seasoning with salt, and black or white pepper if needed.